Point Loma Tide Pools at Cabrillo National Monument

The Point Loma Tide Pools at Cabrillo National Monument lets you see colorful sea creatures in a natural aquarium. See anemones, octopi, sea urchins and more.
Why you'll love this beach
Why you'll love this beach
Sea Creatures Flourish at Point Loma Tide Pools at Cabrillo National Monument
Point Loma Tide Pools
Overview
Explore & Save
Things to Do
Popular Activities
Get There & Parking
Featured Activity
Know Before You Go
Stay Nearby
Similar Beaches

Highlights

Things to Do
Tips
How to get there
Parking
Things to Do
Tips
How to get there
Parking

Overview

Tide Pools Get Heated by the Sun at Low TideKids Loving Tide Pools at Cabrillo National Monument

The Point Loma Tide Pools are a combination of sandstone formations, cliffs and rocky shoreline near the southern tip of San Diego’s Point Loma.

This coastal area may not have the smooth, sandy beaches of Coronado Island or the romantic vistas of Sunset Cliffs, but it gives visitors a peek at a diverse habitat of sea creatures like no other.

At this single spot, you can observe four different tidal zones belonging to California’s rich collection of marine life. This is one time when you don’t have to be a scuba diver to experience the wonder of a reef.

Many marine creatures call the numerous pools and rocky areas home. As the tide lowers, various invertebrates get trapped in the small hollows, turning the entire area into a one-of-a-kind aquarium of sorts.

Here are a few of the colorful residents you may spot:

  • Troglodyte chitons
  • Periwinkle snails
  • Shore crabs
  • Limpets
  • Anemones
  • California sea hares
  • Octopi
  • Lobsters

Many different fish swim around the pools as well. Further out towards the ocean, you can discover larger plants and sea creatures. Past the reef area, it’s possible to spot sea stars, sea urchins and vibrant fish.

Near the tide pools, there are many hiking trails that can provide your family with other spectacular ocean views from the bluffs.

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Things to Do

Running
Running
Sunbathing
Sunbathing

Things You Can See and Do at the Point Loma Tide Pools

Tide Pools

There are a few places within Cabrillo to observe magnificent marine life trapped in the tide pools. The main area is near the new lighthouse, on the western edge of Point Loma. There’s a trail that meanders down from the parking lot to an ample rocky “beach.”

Another favorite spot for observing tide pools is further down the road, just before the sign for the wastewater treatment plant. A short trail leads down to several tide pools surrounded by cliffs. It’s important to walk carefully as these rocks tend to be slippery when wet. Also, remember that taking any rocks or plants, or throwing rocks into the water, is prohibited.

What makes the sea life in these unforgettable pools so special is that the animals aren’t simply floating aimlessly in the water. They interact with each other, hunting for food, attempting to hide behind unique plants and putting on an amazing show. Kids can’t get enough of the experience and adults who love nature also have an incredible time.

Bring your Camera

Photography is a popular way to spend hours at the Point Loma Tide Pools. There is a constantly changing background of rock formations to photograph in addition to opportunities for macro pictures of tiny sea creatures. Every shot is different depending on the tide, time of day, weather, wind direction, lighting conditions, and other factors. Adventurous photographers can find incredible inspiration with so many sandstone bluffs and cliffs jutting into the white waters.

Hours Open

Cabrillo National Monument is only open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., so you have to plan trips between those hours. The specific time for low tide changes on a daily basis, so it’s a good idea to check a tide chart website or phone app to see the perfect time to go.

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How to Get There & Parking

Free Parking
Free Parking
Lot Parking
Lot Parking

To reach Cabrillo National Monument and the tide pools, you need a vehicle. The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System provides hourly bus transportation between the city and Cabrillo National Monument during the week, but buses only go as far as the Visitor Center. If you choose to walk to the tide pools from this location, you can expect a hike of about a mile, which can take 20–30 minutes or more.

If possible, rent a car to visit Point Loma Tide Pools so you have maximum flexibility for exploring and returning. Another option is to take one of the half-day trips offered by tour companies in San Diego. You can also hire a driver or use a local ride-share service as long as you make pick-up arrangements with the driver.

To reach Cabrillo National Monument from Interstate 8, follow Nimitz Blvd south and take a right on Chatsworth Blvd. Then turn left on Catalina Blvd going south. Continue on Catalina Blvd/Cabrillo Memorial Dr for approximately 4 miles. Look for a turnoff for the tide pools on your right-hand side a short distance after entering the park. There is a large parking lot available, but it’s best to arrive early to make sure you get a spot.

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Know Before You Go & Tips

No Alcohol
No Alcohol
No Camping
No Camping
No Dogs
No Dogs
No Glass Containers
No Glass Containers
No Motorized Vehicles
No Motorized Vehicles
No Smoking
No Smoking
No Trash Cans
No Trash Cans

Reminders for Staying Safe at the Point Loma Tide Pools

Bring Good Footwear

It’s smart to invest in a pair of hiking boots, water shoes or other footwear with good tread. This gives you better traction when walking around any slippery rocks at low tide. Photographers especially want a firm grip when taking pictures to avoid falling into the water or dropping their cameras. The best type of footwear depends on whether you’re planning on staying on dry ground the whole time or dipping your toes in the shallow coastal waves.

Entrance Fee

Cabrillo National Monument is part of the National Park Service and there is a fee to enter and park. Vehicle permits are $20 per car and $15 for a motorcycle. People coming in on bikes and walking are $10 / person or $20 for a group of up to four people.

Tips for Larger Groups

If your group has more than 10 people, you may need to have a permit to access the Tide pools. These permits are required for large groups when the low tide is at 0.7’ or lower. Smaller groups, such as families of four, don’t have to worry about any kind of permit.

No Cell Service

There’s no cell phone service within Cabrillo National Monument’s tide pool area. This means that it’s not possible to call a driver or shuttle to pick you up. Whether you take a guided tour or hire a driver to take you to Cabrillo, make sure to arrange a pick-up time beforehand.

Point Loma Tide Pools at Cabrillo National Monument
is Known For:
Tide Pools
Tide Pools
Know This:
Restrooms Available
Restrooms Available
Tide Pools
Tide Pools
Trash Cans Available
Trash Cans Available
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